For some time now, I have wanted to read the new book by J.K. Rowling. After the Harry Potter series, she wrote "The Casual Vacancy", a novel for adults. Unlike her previous, magical books, this one is very real-life, down-to-earth, serious and in the end tragic story about life in a small town. As the characters get introduced, described and developed, each one of their situations is woven into the whole picture, making it more tangled and complicated. Neighbors and friends scheme against each other; relatives deceive each other; children lie and scheme against their parents - and each character is wrapped in own illusions, lives in his or her custom world, until a real tragedy happens and two children die. Their deaths strip the pretense off the rest of the town and force the real colors to come through the appearances.... In the end, everyones' lives are changed.... whether they realize it or not.
(One strange detail: somehow through all the tragic events of the story I kept wanting to drink tea. Every time I started a new chapter, my hand would almost automatically reach for the teacup and then some cookies. The novel's story is anything but cozy, but J.K Rowling's descriptions transport one into that small town, with its cobblestone square, tiny tea and coffee shops, deli and restaurant, with all its smells, sounds, talk and gossip. Tea seems a necessity in this atmosphere, not unlike when watching "Midsomer Murders": small cozy-looking square, people bustling around, then - there is a dead body! Oh no, how horrible! Would you like a spot of tea? )))
The most surprising - horrifying? - part of the story for me was the circumstances that led to the death of a 3-year-old boy. He was left unattended, walked over to the river and drowned - a tragic.. accident? Yes, of course. But it was not the moment of his death that horrified me - that was the final strike, the blow that gave the shock, but not the feeling of horror; it was the behavior of the people around him. The entire time, this boy was surrounded by people, by adults. He was seen marching to the river, straight to his death, as it turns out, and none of them asked themselves: why is this boy alone? Where are his parents? Why is he so dirty? Maybe I should stop him and call someone? No, these townsfolk - friendly and proud of their home and full of "community spirit" - did not even pause to do anything for one of their own, the smallest and the most helpless of them. They simply chose to - ignore him and go on with their lives. Their behavior, in the end, is what caused the tragedy. Under the warm glaze of community spirit and smiles there is the cold, hard indifference, and the realization of that sends chills down my back.
|Image from MTV.com|